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Last updated on 24 July, 2023 at 10:43 AM
Arthur Clarke said in an email on Fri 26 Jun 2009:
Locking Memories of B0682445 AA Clarke A - Part One
I thought I might put down on paper some of the things I remember about my time at Locking to see how those memories compare with others or whether I dreamt the whole thing while delirious undergoing brain surgery. Not as poetic as Derek’s effort but it may prompt someone else to put pen to paper.
Pom for breakfast. Said to be left over from the war years (one of our secret weapons), this homogenous gourmet delight was served up on a daily basis. I think it was the same tray every morning for I never saw anybody actually eating it despite the fact that we were all starving from an adolescent growth spurt.
Pea I say pea, for this only differed from the pom in that it was green and it appeared to have the shells of peas scattered throughout. I later found Henlow managed to produce the same delicacy – must have had the same supplier.
Morning tea break This was special for me. The meat pasties and the cheese pasties with a golden puff pastry mmmmmmmm I can taste them now. Can anyone else?
Chips We all loved the chips; especially a certain AA Nick Parker who seemed to exist solely on them. He once said to me, with an incredulous voice, as we passed the mess after having chips. “Tha put tha chups in tha pug bun”. Still, he did come from the Isle of Arran. (Are you out there Nick old pal?)
The Tea Some said they put chemicals in our tea. I didn’t know then what they were but I know my girlfriend on my infrequent visits home said I was a changed man. The tea and the lectures from the padre about a chap called Onan certainly had the desired affect.
LAA McDermot did not like the civvies I wore prior to getting our uniforms. He said my tie was an indication of the way the morality of Englishmen had deteriorated. (He wasn’t wearing his tartan skirt at the time).
My first uniform came as a bit of a shock. Excessive chafing caused me to adopt a walk that can only be described as duck like. The beret, on cold days, could be pulled down to cover my ears and the buttons on the jacket would start to corrode only minutes after cleaning them with materials which, if ingested, would cause a slow painful death.
My tunic (38” Portly it said on the label though I had a thirty inch waist) was all over me like, as they say, a rash. I did manage to get it changed but not till after the entire billet collapsed in laughter the first time I put it on.
On the other hand my greatcoat fitted me like a Victorian ladies corset and I strained to get the buttons fastened. My SD hat only touched my head in two places; front and rear. The clothing store corporal said I had a weird shaped head and did my mother have difficulties at my birth. However, I wasn’t the only one to have difficulties with uniforms and the billet rang with laughter all day.
To be continued…
Arthur Clarke said in an email on 27 July 2008:
As some members seem to be recounting their careers both before and after leaving the RAF I thought I would do the same but divide it into two parts – Part 1 - before leaving RAF. And for those of you who have nothing better to do and can’t stand the thought of it becoming a topic of conversation at the proposed meeting - Part 2 – after the RAF. ( I thought of doing it in HTML but it won’t work on the website and anyway I’ve forgotten how!)
I wanted somewhere near my girlfriend (Walton-on-Thames) so they sent me to RIS Henlow. All I remember about that is the Teahouse of the August Jim and the Café Billet (Pronounced with a French accent). I think Danny Boon was there but not on my team. While away on fitting parties my Henlow bed went mouldy and someone stole my locker. My party were installing BABS while Danny’s team were ripping it out. Eventually they caught up with us!
It was then on to Newton for Bloodhound 2 – Danny, Roy, Nick Parker. Then the Ferranti factory where I met my first digital computer. Roy was there but I can’t remember anyone else. After that the Northcoates Gulag for 7 long years. Roy, Danny and Nick there again. I went mad there. 41 squadron and Bloodhound 2 provided some relief and I fell in love with Norfolk. Danny and Nick and Stan were present.
Two and a half years later I was selected for Skynet and went on a course on spacecraft at Farnborough. I wasn’t on the really easy comms side but the hard Telemetry and Command side. Soon after our spacecraft was launched the Chinese pinched our access codes and started occupying our channels to order takeaways, so it was off to Texas for 8 of us, to learn about encryption. We had a great time but no 84th I’m afraid. In fact I never saw another 84th member from then on. CSDE was my final posting – back to Norfolk. Whilst there I was offered a job by a fishing pal who was the Advanced Projects Engineer (APE) at PYE TV. He said I could be his assistant (AAPE) and help him computerise the TV production line. After a quick interview with his Business Unit Manager (BUM) I was offered the job at a very lucrative salary! At that time the voluntary redundancy scheme was underway in the RAF so I took it with full pension rights and left.
The first test jig we designed and hooked up to the leased IBM system 7 sent the whole factory out on strike claiming their jobs were being de-skilled. I sat around for the next three years writing software and waiting for the unions to sort themselves out. Sanyo took us over and I was made redundant, as were the unions.
Next job was as a tech author at Marconi in Norwich writing manuals for Sea Wolf and Tornado. Did a bit of programming of the Automatic Test Equipment (ATE) for Tornado and went on a programming course at the local tech. (Dick Cheeseman visited us from BAE but he seemed a bit harried and had little time to chat.) Made redundant after refusing to move to Chelmsford 10 years later. I’d been training German engineers on the ATE and they had told me about the silly money you could earn as a consultant in Germany so I went to Stuttgart working for IBM as a Consultant Technical Documentation Engineer at four times the money I was getting working for Marconi. Six years later I was head hunted by a Czech agency who needed someone to run the software library (C++) at Alcatel on a project to update the Deutchesbunderposte telephone system. Two years later the project fell through when they gave the contract to Ericson.
Alcatel moved me to Paris onto mobile phone base stations documentation but I really can’t stand the French despite the food and wine in the staff canteen; left after two years and came home. Formed a company with a tech author called Russell Kent. ‘Clarke Kent Ltd’, would you believe. Offices in Sheringham. Work piled in.
One morning on my way to work a lorry pulled out in front of me and I hit its side doing 60. Curtains I thought as I hurtled towards the windscreen. But no; Volvo’s are built to take care of you and I lived; somewhat damaged said the neuro-surgeon. At that point I decided to retire with my compensation, and go fishing. Still doing it!
I still write the occasional manual for local firms but my heart is no longer in it.